Reducing energy costs in your nursing or care home

Like all businesses throughout the UK, the care home industry is facing a tremendous squeeze on budgets as a result of high energy bills and rising inflation.

To balance your budget whilst continuing to offer a high quality service to residents, it is vital for care home providers to introduce a modern energy strategy that will reduce energy costs and deliver long-term energy security.

Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo) can help your care home to drive down energy bills by improving the energy efficiency of your facility and installing on-site renewable energy generation.

The BHESCo Project Team will design a bespoke low-carbon energy system for your nursing facility and finance your chosen energy measures with money raised from members of our co-operative. This means that for no upfront cost you can expect to enjoy immediate savings on energy bills, freeing up budget for staff, medical equipment, or whatever is a priority to you.

Why care homes have high heating bills?

Residential homes and healthcare providers must ensure a continuously warm environment for their residents and radiators are in almost constant use during the winter months. For this reason, care homes use a lot of heat and heating costs account for the biggest share of a care home’s energy bill. According to research from the Energy Saving Trust, heating can account for 70% of a residential home’s energy bill.

Because residential care homes require substantial levels of heat in order to meet the needs of elderly and vulnerable residents, improving the efficiency of the heating provision should be a top priority for any facilities manager looking to achieve energy bill savings.   

Unfortunately, compared to lighting provision for example, improving the efficiency of heating is a complex undertaking, requiring a good understanding of the existing thermal efficiency and heat loads of the property.

For this reason, a detailed energy assessment should be the first step for any facilities manager looking to improve energy performance.

Understanding the existing energy performance of your care facility

Before you can begin to introduce energy improvements to your care home it is first absolutely vital to gain a thorough understanding of the existing energy profile of the building. Only once the strengths and weaknesses have been ascertained can you begin to identify opportunities for improvement.

Making the effort in the early stages of an energy improvement project to properly investigate the existing energy performance of the building can save a lot of time and money further down the line.

An energy assessment from an experienced professional will highlight areas of significant heat loss and energy waste and help you to prioritise areas that need immediate attention. An energy assessment can also include a heat load calculation which will provide an insight of the existing heat demand of the property, as well enabling you to investigate the potential for alternative heating solutions.

Improving the heating of your care home

Every residential care home or nursing facility is different and what might be the best solution for one location may not work at all for another.

However, there are some options worth considering that can be applied in most circumstances.

When it comes to improving the heating of your care home BHESCo would recommend investigating the potential for heat pumps. These can come in the form of an air source heat pump or a ground source heat pump, and work most effectively when supplying heat to a shared system, for example, as a replacement for an old communal boiler.

When installing a heat pump you will most likely need to reconsider the heat delivery system, by which we mean how heat is transported to the individual rooms of your health care facility. Heat pumps are most efficient when connected to an underfloor heating system, but they can work well with radiators provided they have a large enough surface area.

Heat pumps can provide heat all year round and work most effectively when providing a consistent level of ambient heat throughout the day (as opposed to a short blast of high temperature heat as  we expect from a gas-fired boiler). For this reason, it is essential to make every effort to improve the thermal efficiency of your care home before considering alternative heating options.

Improving energy efficiency is essential for reducing energy costs for your healthcare business

The most effective way to immediately drive down gas and electricity costs at your care facility is by taking steps to maximise the thermal and energy efficiency of the building.

This could include installing cavity wall insulation if there currently isn’t any or topping up loft insulation to the recommended minimum of 300mm.

All windows should be double glazed at a minimum, complemented with effective air-tight seals and thick curtains. Doors should be modern energy efficient models with adequate draught exclusion.

Improving energy efficiency should come before other considerations, even if those are more exciting. There is no use spending thousands installing a new state of the art low-carbon heating system if the majority of the heat generated is lost through draught windows and leaky walls.

chairs and sofas and lamps in a residential care home
A successful care home provider will maximise energy efficiency without compromising on the quality of warmth and comfort for residents. Photo by Pixabay at Pexels

How to reduce lighting costs in your care home

Lighting accounts for one of the major energy costs at any care or nursing facility, with residents expecting rooms, hallways, and communal spaces to be well lit throughout the day.

With such a high lighting demand, it makes sense to invest in a modern energy efficient lighting system, composed of low-energy Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). There was a time when LEDs were expensive compared to incandescent lights and they were not always dimmable. Thankfully, LEDs are not at a price parity with incandescent or halogen lights, and most brands now offer dimmable versions plus a variety of styles and brightness levels to suit your requirements.

In some instances, enhancing the efficiency of lighting has achieved a cost saving of 30%.

Installing remote control and smart energy management technologies for your care provider

Effectively managing the heat and lighting performance of a care facility is a tremendous challenge, but one that can be made significantly more efficient through the introduction of modern digital technology.

Installing intelligent energy management systems such as individual heat zone controls, smart thermostats, and motion sensor timers can deliver exceptional efficiency gains that will quickly pay back the upfront cost.  

Integrating remote monitoring and controls will also allow facilities managers to continually gather and analyse data about a care home’s energy use. You can make informed decisions on adjusting heat and lighting settings in reaction to real-time data, and have the tools available to design a   business case for the adoption of new measures where necessary.

smart energy management for care homes
Introducing a data driven smart energy management system is a worthwhile investment that will deliver long-term cost-saving efficiencies . Photo by James Yarema on Unsplash

Introducing renewable energy generation to your residential care home

Next to improving the energy efficiency of your property, the most effective way to drive down long-term energy costs is by introducing on-site renewable energy technologies.

Installing rooftop solar panels for example will provide your care home with an opportunity to generate its own clean renewable energy.

Solar panel systems typically last for 25 years or longer, during which time your care facility will be able to generate free electricity from the sun. Every unit of electricity that can be generated for free replaces a unit of electricity that does not have to be purchased from an energy supplier. Over time, this represents a substantial cost-saving for your health care business, in addition to demonstrating that you are serious about taking action on the climate crisis.

Where appropriate, your care home can augment a rooftop solar power array with battery storage solutions. This means you can store power for use at times of peak demand (e.g. dinner preparation), and can also take advantage of ‘Time of Use’ tariffs, where the price of electricity fluctuates throughout the day.

The cost of solar panels has declined substantially in the last ten years, making solar power much more affordable and economically attractive for care homes and nursing facilities

How your healthcare business can install energy saving and renewable energy technologies for no upfront cost

At BHESCo we know that one of the biggest barriers preventing care homes providers from improving their energy performance is capital expenditure. With a myriad of ongoing overheads and staffing costs, finding the adequate finance for energy efficiency improvements can be nigh on impossible.

For this reason, BHESCo makes our services available to all of our customers at no upfront cost.

In addition to designing and project managing the installation of your chosen energy measures, BHESCo can meet the upfront capital expenditure through our co-operative members who have chosen to invest their money in solutions to the climate crisis.

Once a new energy system has been installed your care home will begin to enjoy an immediate reduction in your monthly energy costs. A portion of these savings is then used to repay the upfront cost that BHESCo’s members have made on your care home’s behalf. Over an agreed lease period, the upfront cost is gradually repaid until your care home eventually becomes the owner of the energy saving/ generating equipment and can enjoy 100% of the savings for the lifetime of the system.

This is called our ‘Pay As You Save’ financing and is made available to all of BHESCo’s project customers.

Project Contact Form

If you’re interested in working with BHESCo to revolutionise the way that your care home or nursing home manages it’s heat and power demands then please provide your details in the form below and a member of our Projects Team will get back to you to discuss next steps.